Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tandav of death: Violence grips the nation

India is burning. Some regions by the scorching sun and many areas singed by the icy harsh reality of terror, violence and bloodshed. Of piling dead bodies, mourned only by more gun shots. Symptomatic of the complete lawlessness that has gripped the country. A new cult establishing an order of hatred and rage. Of an eerie stillness filling the senses with the smell of death, mayhem and brutal carnage held hostage by rampant goondagardi. Wherein brutality and beastility have become synonymous in modern India.
Pick any newspaper. Any day. Splashes of social schisms gore into news headlines. Massacres and murders. Heart wrenching cries of anguish which haunt and taunt the reality of present day India. Wails which epitomize the agony of scars that stubbornly refuse to heal. Agonisingly, the last fortnight has once again brought to the fore that violence is the rhetoric of the period. If it was Jammu and Kashmir yesterday, it is Gujarat today and Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh tomorrow.

In horrifying attacks, Pak-based Lashkar-e-Taibba militants murdered in cold blood as many as 35 Hindus in Udhampur and Doda districts of Kashmir ten days ago. After a lull of a few months, a chilling reminder to India that it should not preen over the massive electoral response to four byelections in the State. A clear signal to New Delhi that they would bombard all peace initiatives. Notwithstanding the various Indo-Pak CBMs already in place and the decision to institutionalize the framework of talks between the Prime Minister and the various separatist groups including the Hurriyat.

In Vadodara, six died as riots broke out over the demolition of a century-old Muslim Dargah by the municipal authorities. While Muslims protested the demolition, the Hindus drew blood to avenge the death of their brethren. Resulting in the army being called in and the Supreme Court staying the demolitions ordered by the Gujarat High Court. Recall, the court had taken suo motu cognizance of a newspaper report of increasing encroachment of public land by even religious bodies unauthorisedly constructing places of worship. It is another matter that Saudi Arabia, home to Hazrat Mohammad and to Mecca and Medina, adopted a pragmatic approach for dealing with mosques and graves which come in the way of the modernization and development of its Capital, Riyadh. All mosques that came in the way of development were given notice to shift to other sites, provided by the Government. Likewise, the keepers of graves were sternly told to remove them. Bulldozers were moved in to do the needful if the deadline was not kept. None dared to protest.

Amidst this mayhem, the Naxalites continued their tandav of death in 13 states. Over the last week the CPI (Maoists) massacred 17 tribals in Chhattisgarh, looted a bank and attacked a police station in Bihar and hijacked two luxury boats on Krishna river in Andhra and kidnapped 10 of the 234 holiday-makers. The Centre's response? Mouthing platitudes of being pro-active and taking firm measures to contain this single biggest security threat to the country.

Invariably, every terrorist and Naxal attack elicits a predictable and misdirected state response. The militants from across the border are accused for the dastardly attack in Kashmir, the Hindu fundamentalists for the Vadodara violence and the Maoists ideology for growing Naxalism. Knee-jerk reactions are then announced with dollops of fake bravado. A ritual drama whose script is familiar and draws the same reactions--more of the same. Setting up more police camps and increasing the financial allocation for anti-Naxalite and anti-terrorist operations. But that doesn't salvage India's soul. All it does is to detract attention from the real cause.

It is just not a mere question of terrorism or communal violence. What is of import is why violence has become the rhetoric of the time? What are the causes for the aam admi to turn violent? Riot, mob, burn and kill? It boils down to plain incitement. The real perpetrators are not the innocent people but the polity and their cohorts. Politicians and the police are but two sides of the same coin. And the bureaucracy a hand maiden. All widely viewed nowadays as venal and incompetent.

To serve their petty narrow parochial ends our leaders will do anything. When the end game is power, neither the means adopted or the cost involved matter. Simplistically, what we are facing today is breakdown all institutions--social, caste, religious and moral.

Compartmentalizing men, women and children into an abstract secular and communal mode to suit their electoral ends. Down to the colour of blood. Even using naked force, hypocrisy and fraud to get power. All in the name of social justice and economic development. Over the years, they have perfected the art of not only dividing the people on caste and communal lines but instilling a feeling of intolerance. Wherein at a drop of a hat people indulge in violence.

Never mind, the show goes one. In an era where the medium is the massage everything is branded, followed by an advertising blitzkrieg. Right from slogans to netas are packaged like a much-prized and publicized toothpaste. Think beyond the headlines. Why is the country in the grip of the gun when economically it is on the roll? When a galloping GDP of 8 per cent, flowing foreign exchange reserves and a climbing senses. All indicating that all is well with the nation. That is the celluloid India. Let's backtrack to the real Bharat. Which is the iron tentacles of the ever widening "deadly cocktail" of social disparity of Maruti Yuppieism of the 200 million and the degrading poverty of the 800 million coupled with the basic questions of agrarian struggle.

Look at the dichotomy. India boasts of being an agrarian economy. But its rural landscape is in shambles. Agricultural credit and finance systems have collapsed and the shrinking of local democracy has further deepened the chaos. Leading to the countryside being dotted with suicides. Since 1997, over 25,000 farmers have committed suicides across the country. Every day at least six farmers end their lives in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Since June last year, over 470 of the 3.2 million cotton growers in Maharashtra's Vidarbha did the same. Thanks to soaring input costs, low output costs and drought. The final straw is the blizzard of money-lenders' threats and bank notices. Add to this the cast-iron local feudal structure of rich landlords. Wherein the debt trap slowly becomes the death trap.

Add to this the big drop in rural employment. Both landed farmers and agricultural workers have taken a terrible beating. According to Government statistics, over 40 million people, among them 15 million children, are bonded labourers, working to pay off their debt. There are over 160 million "untouchables" at the bottom of India's caste system and one comes face to face with the tragic social realities of discrimination and violence. Providing the Naxals the perfect opening to wean the agricultural labourers with the promise of getting them their rightful dues in terms of not only wages but also give them confiscated surplus land from the landlords and distributing it among the landless labourers. Thereby laying the seeds of running a parallel government in remote areas, conducting people's court, extorting money from landlords and distributing the booty among the poor a la Robin Hood. Something which successive governments at the Centre and in the States have failed to do.

Tragically, so desperate is our polity in outbidding each other in the electoral sweepstakes that none can see the Frankenstein they have mindlessly created. They need to be wary that all it takes to destroy a nation is an innocuous modern-day convenience. Guns and bombs that can turn deadly in terrorists' hands. It is now imperative for the country to re-think its strategies and approach to the future. No short cuts are possible If not stopped now, it could lead to more intolerance and result in a total breakdown of institutions, society, culture and ethical values. Which, in turn, could be the cause of a socio-political revolution.

Where do we go from here? It all depends on our polity. Merely mouthing assurances that India is on the roll and all is well is living like an ostrich - with its head buried in the sand. It has to think beyond the headlines and do some honest soul searching. Will it continue to allow India to gently weep and drift towards disaster? No country with any sense of self-respect and national honour prostitutes secularism or social justice at the altar of vote bank politics. And watches it burn. New Delhi alone has to carry the cross.

Poonam I Kaushish, INFA

1 comment:

anil kumar said...

How many days we have to wait for good news from kashmir? It will not happen until we have to sacrifice our lives and finish all the terrorists in the kashmir. This government didnot do any thing because it needs power. for the sake of power it can do any thing who is supporting them to power.